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Teenagers address social problems

More than 800 teenagers have revealed their plans to try to solve some of Ireland's most pressing problems.

Homelessness, homophobia, domestic violence and child abuse were among the key social issues addressed by young people to community leaders, politicians and figures in business, voluntary and social services.

Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan, Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes and Sean Coughlan, of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, were among the guests who heard presentations at the Young Social Innovators' (YSI) Speak Out 2010 event in Dublin.

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, YSI chair, called on youngsters to continue their involvement in social activism.

"You have demonstrated a deep understanding and appreciation of the issues facing society today and presented fresh and imaginative approaches to solving them," said Sr Stan.

"Irish society is changing. It is more open now than ever before to the rights and opinions of young people. Use the experience you have gained through Young Social Innovators to influence the shape of our society. Make your voices heard."

YSI was established in 2002 to help engage young people in social action in their local community.

Working in teams, teens study a social issue of concern to them, identifying ways to improve or solve it and implementing their solutions wherever possible.

This year's Speak Out series involved 6,000 young people aged 15-18 years from 185 schools. A total of 12 events were held in six locations, with the annual programme culminating with the YSI Showcase at Croke Park on May 5, where the overall winning team will be announced.

YSI co-founder and chief executive, Rachel Collier, said young people needed more opportunities to make their voices heard. "They need additional meaningful mechanisms to participate in democracy. They have a stake in Ireland and their voice needs to count."

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